Bruce Carson's trial did not last long. We now await the judge's decision. On one level, the trial was about one individual's corrupt behaviour. But, on another level, the trial revealed yet again how the Harper government corrupts everything it touches. David Keith provides a little context:
In the spring of 2004, University of Calgary President Harvey Weingarten recruited me back to Canada to help build a top-notch research centre that would inform the hard energy choices faced by Alberta, Canada, and the larger world. In September 2006, I travelled to Ottawa with Weingarten to showcase our efforts and help raise funds. We met with Carson, who was seen as the prime minister’s go-to guy for climate policy, an increasingly hot topic as the Kyoto accord gained visibility. My impression of Carson then and in succeeding months was of a gruff lawyer keen to cut through the spin and craft a middle-ground deal on climate policy.
Carson was soon appointed to the position of Executive Director of the University of Calgary's School of Energy and the Environment. And it immediately became apparent that Carson was the oil patch's go-to-guy:
It soon became clear that Carson was simply using his academic post to further the interests of the conservative government and a narrow segment of the energy industry. Documents released by the RCMP contain emails and interviews making it unequivocally clear that Carson worked closely with industry leaders to produce meetings and reports that had the patina of stakeholder representation, while in fact aiming to avoid meaningful public debate.
Leaders of Alberta’s universities did nothing substantive to manage the problem until Carson’s scandal forced their hands. Even then, they failed to act decisively to ensure that public money was used for research that supported broad public interests.
Keith's conclusion bears repeating:
This is a national problem. Over decades, Canadian governments have emasculated or killed institutions that gave independent advice on science and technology so that they are now among the weakest in the G7. Federal and provincial governments increasingly demand that research funding be tied to matching money from industry, so work that threatens industry’s interests does not get funded. It’s a good idea to tie some applied work in engineering to industrial interests, but this requirement must not apply to policy analysis.
But you've heard this story before.